Nutrition tips for morning sickness

A woman feeling nauseous during breakfast

Finding out you’re pregnant can be exciting news. But for many, that celebration is interrupted by a party pooper: morning sickness.

It’s a misnomer, too — pregnancy nausea doesn’t seem to care what time it is. It’s common to experience a wave of nausea at any time during the day, or nausea that persists all day long.

Why does it happen? We aren’t exactly sure. Morning sickness seems to be a result of a combination of factors including genetic, hormonal and gastrointestinal (digestive) factors.

If you’re experiencing morning sickness, you might not feel like eating much, and what you do manage to eat, you struggle to keep down. On top of that, first-trimester fatigue can leave little energy to buy and prepare healthy meals. These symptoms normally appear around four to six weeks into pregnancy, hit a peak between eight and 12 weeks, and begin to improve thereafter.

The bad news: For some people, there’s just no perfect remedy to make that nausea improve. You might need to try a variety of strategies to find the option that helps your symptoms the most.

The good news: Unlike in the second and third trimester when you need some additional calories, in the first trimester, you don’t need extra calories, so you don’t need to worry about increasing your food intake for baby’s growth. The list of nutrients crucial for baby’s development also isn’t very long yet.

One nutrient to emphasize in the first trimester: folate or folic acid

Folate or folic acid is essential for a variety of reasons, but in the first trimester it plays a critical role in the development of baby’s spinal cord and prevention of neural tube defects. Because of its important role, you’ll find it in most prenatal vitamins. If you struggle to take your prenatal vitamin in the first trimester, don’t fret. Many of the foods we find comfort in when nauseous (cereal, crackers, toast) are fortified with folic acid.

Tips for fighting pregnancy nausea

Here’s what you can focus on until that persistent nausea eventually passes (usually around the second trimester).

Research shows that ginger effectively and naturally decreases nausea.

The easiest use for ginger is tea:

  1. Thinly slice some ginger root, available at most grocery stores.
  2. Place slices in a mug.
  3. Pour boiling water over the ginger, and steep for a few minutes. (The longer it steeps, the stronger the tea.)
  4. Drink the resulting tea anytime as needed, hot or cold. If desired, use a strainer to remove ginger slices before drinking.

Dry, easily digestible carbohydrates also have a low risk of upsetting your stomach. Bagels, dry cereal and dry toast without butter seem to help with morning sickness. Snacks with some salt, such as pretzels or saltine crackers, may also help reduce nausea.

A vitamin B6 supplement often can lessen nausea. It’s available over the counter, but talk with your doctor about whether it’s best for you.

Cold foods may be easier to include than warm foods, which typically have stronger smells and can trigger a nausea episode.

Avoid fried or fatty foods – they take longer to leave the stomach, meaning they’re more likely to contribute to feelings of nausea.

Easy foods for the first trimester

It’s important to eat what you can in small, frequent meals throughout the day, aiming especially to eat something small in the morning – cereal, for example, or yogurt. Going too long between meals and feeling hunger pangs can worsen nausea, so eating small meals regularly can help keep food in your belly. Eating small meals is less taxing on the digestive system than eating fewer, larger meals.


They're a good source of protein, and the choline in egg yolk helps baby’s brain development. Try a batch of hard-boiled eggs to eat on their own or in egg salad. (Make sure that, however you prepare eggs, the entire egg is cooked all the way through, with a firm yolk, to kill bacteria like salmonella.)


This is another good source of protein. Cold, cooked chicken can be sliced and used for a sandwich or cut up for chicken salad.

Chilled fresh fruit

This is an easy option for some pregnant people experiencing morning sickness. Adding peanut butter, perhaps to a banana, is an effective way to mix in protein.

Fruit smoothies

These can make complete meals, and since smoothies are already blended, they leave the stomach faster, helping decrease nausea.

Fruits and vegetables

Try your best to get a wide variety mixed into your diet. We do know, though, that berries and dark, leafy greens are especially packed full of nutrients that developing babies need.

Ice pops

Choose those made from 100% fresh fruit juice, which are a favorite for some people during early pregnancy. Making your own in the freezer is another option.

You may want to check with your doctor before using products with artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame (used in Equal and NutraSweet), saccharin (Sweet’N Low, Sugar Twin) or sucralose (Splenda). While they’re approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use during pregnancy, they provide no nutritional value to you or the baby.

As a general rule, eat as healthfully as possible, drink plenty of water and eat whatever you’re able to keep down (with the exception of foods not recommended during pregnancy, such as unpasteurized dairy and juices, fish high in mercury or prepared meats, like lunch meat and hot dogs, unless steaming hot).

Hang in there. We covered the good and bad news, but remember the best news: Pregnancy can be difficult, but at the end of nine months, it’s all worth it.

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